Practice English Speaking&Listening with: She isn't African enough?! DNA Ancestry tests feat. It's Okay To Be Smart

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(smooth music)

- [Evelyn] Are you tired of being plain old ordinary black?

Wish you could wear ethnic paraphernalia

like a Kiss Me, I'm Irish button?

Or a legitimate feathered headdress

not associated with the music festival?

When people ask you where you're really from,

do you wish you could say more than,

Oh, you know, a slave ship.

Well, have I got a product for you.

Just fill this container with your spit, or blood, or tears,

or whatever, then sign away your cloning rights

and ability to process gluten.

Send it to us,

and voila, we'll tell you what you really are.

- I'm 2% a Jewish.

- And 100% more interesting.

- DNA testing for genetic ancestry is

one of the fastest growing consumer markets.

- The industry more than doubled in 2017,

and it's now estimated

that well over 26 million people have access

to their DNA profiles.

- Most people who have tested are in the US,

and most of those people are white, black,

and mixed race Americans whose ancestors go back

at least three generations here.

- That's right.

People of this great melting pot of a country want

to know what melted?

How much melted?

And where the stuff that melted came from?

- Ew.

(upbeat funk music)

- Today, we're gonna look at the positives

and negatives of these test for Black Americans.

Black folks have deep roots in the US, obviously.

The importation of slaves was banned in 1808,

so most of us have been here for well over 200 years,

but we're the least likely to know our ancestral past

because of slavery.

- It's not fair.

We deserve to know what's

in our hot, bubbly melting pot goo just like everyone else.

- So how does all of this really work?

- I don't know.

I'm not a scientist.

- That was rhetorical.

We got Joe.

- When you send your DNA off to one

of those personal genomics or ancestry companies,

they don't read all 6,000,000,000 letters of your DNA.

They only have to read a few 100 or 1,000 spots.

What they get is a kind of bar code,

that describes your unique combination

of DNA letters at these spots,

because who wouldn't want their entire identity

summarized by a barcode?

Then they compare your unique barcode

with thousand of reference individuals

from different geographical areas

to see what you share and what you don't.

Sprinkle a little math on it,

and then they send you their best guess

of where your DNA comes from.

- Well, that sounds pretty cut and dry, right?

It's just like a DNA matching game.

- Wow, Evelyn.

I never expected you of all people to be so naive.

- Excuse me?

- There's one major problem that Evelyn fails to foresee.

The genetic databases that these companies use

to play the DNA matching game have major gaps,

major non-white gaps.

Nearly 80% of people who have participated

in studies about genes are of European decent.

- Right.


- That means that analyzing the data

of Africans, Middle-Easterners, Asians,

and Indigenous Americans is pretty difficult,

and especially difficult if you're a mixture,

because many DNA segments are shared among groups.

- So why don't they just go to those places,

and get more of the DNA?

(upbeat music)

- [Scientists] Hello there!

- Oh, sorry.


- [Scientists] Yes, Jambo!

- Would you ladies be willing to spit in this cup

for a research project we're doing in America?

- What are you talking about?

- We already know that Jesus.

- Oh, no.

This isn't anything religious.

This is for science.

- Science, oh gee.

How do I explain this?

It's like you look up at the sky,

and you think,

Hmm, why is it blue?

Until you decide to experiment.

- We know what science is.

How do you think we can keep our fish out in this hot sun,

and it doesn't spoil.

We use science.

- I understand if spitting is unattractive.

We could use some of your hair or blood.

- Let me ask you something.

Let's say we go to where you're from.

I'm going to say New Jersey.

- Oh, yes.

Well I am from Jersey.

- I can tell.

So we go to your home,

and we say, hey lady, give us some of your blood,

and your sweat, and your tears, and your spit,

for a project we are working on in Africa.

How would that make you feel?

- Well...

- I know you Americans don't do nothing for free.

You're getting rich from this spit.

- Rich?



I can hardly keep up with my student loans.

(laughs loudly)

- We all must do our part for science.

- Science.

- Is science gonna raise my kids?

- No.

- Is science gonna keep my man from gettin' on my nerves?

Is science going to end the negative impact

of western imperialism on my society?

- No, no, no.

- Ladies, if you don't want no rice or no fish,

then you can take your spit cup and go back to Jersey.

- I am pretty hungry.

- [Scientist] Don't think I've eaten all day.

- We'll take some of your fish and rice.

- Okay, come.

Sit, sit, sit.

- Okay, come sit.

We'll talk about this DNA science.

- That went surprisingly well at the end.

- All because of a little thing called reciprocity.

In February of 2017, a consortium

of African scientists called the H3 Africa Initiative,

released ethical guidelines for foreign researchers.

- So good.

Now scientists have to evaluate

how their work directly benefits

the African community they're studying.

- Yes, and that includes economic benefits.

Which gets into another issue with these tests.

How the companies make money off of your genetic data.

- Well, you pay for the service.

- Yeah, but then for and into eternity,

they can sell your genetic data

to third parties like research firms and drug companies.

Most of them let you opt out, but some don't.

- I don't know.

As a black person, that makes me uncomfortable.

What about what they did to Henrietta Lacks?

Her cancer cells are still the most important cells

in medical research.

They are saving lives to this day,

and neither her nor her family

ever received any compensation.

- That is so terrible.

Well, these tests only take a little spit,

which unlike blood or cancer cells,

isn't really enough to do anything with

but sequence and store the DNA in a database.

- Well, okay.

That's a little better.

- Yeah, but I hear you.

What if they get hacked,

and everyone finds out I have restless leg syndrome,

and I'm allergic to carrots?

- Well, everyone knows now, so...

- It's definitely something I've thought about

when I did my DNA testing.

- Wait?

You've taken the test?

- Yeah, I've done five.

- What?

First of all, too many.

But Azie, we're doing a whole episode about DNA testing,

and you didn't think to tell us you've had five?

- I forgot.

- Oh my God.

I can't.

- Okay.

We'll, let's take a look at my results.

So as you can see,

each company has gotten different results

based on what is in their database,

and how their algorithm analyzes my DNA barcode.

- Okay.

But some of these are way different.

Like that one has only three places on it.

Oh, hey Kenya.

But that one has basically everywhere on it.

- Also Kenya.

- [Evelyn] Hey cousin.

- (laugh)

Yeah, the discrepancies between these maps is nuts,

but when you think about it,

a lot of ethnicities share a large portion of DNA,

because of shared history,

and you know, people getting it on and stuff.

So if a company doesn't have enough non-white DNA,

they won't be able to distinguish well

between non-white ethnicities.

When they analyze the DNA,

they put it through the algorithm many dozens of times,

and then average the results.

So the 17% that I share with them is an average.

Look, I might share 0% or as much as 33%.

- Okay, so those are countries now,

but there are a lot of ethnicities there,

like the Ashanti, the Akan, Songhai, Hausa.

- explains

that national lines are pretty arbitrary.

This region has about 60 different ethnic groups

that share DNA.

- That doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

- I know.

But the opposite is the case for Benin/Togo,

because my range for that was not wide at all,

28 to 30%.

- Whoa.


Well, I've heard about a company that specializes

in African DNA.

- [Azie] Yes, called African Ancestry.

- And they have the world's largest database

of African DNA, and they can determine your lineage

down to one exactly country and ethnic group.

- They can.

It's deep ancestry.

- Come again there?

- Don't ask me.

Ask Joe.

- Do you remember from biology class

how your DNA is all inside something called the nucleus?

- Yeah!

- Well, that actually wasn't quite accurate.

There's a little bit of DNA inside a part

of the cell called the mitochondria.

Way back in deep time, these mitochondria used

to be free swimming creatures,

but they got swallowed by a bigger cell,

and now they live inside all of our cells.

These things have their own genetic material.

Unlike your other 46 chromosomes,

there's no shuffling when it's passed between generations.

But what's more,

all of your mitochondria came from your mother's egg,

not your father's sperm.

So we can look at that DNA to trace an unbroken line

of ancestors stretching back through every female

in your family tree.

Now tiny changes in this DNA also let us track

how human populations have migrated,

for most people at least.

The most ancient mitochondrial DNA in humans comes

from Africa, where our species originated.

And we can even trace it back to one woman,

about 150,000 years ago.

Scientists call her Mitochondrial Eve.

She wasn't the only homo sapiens female alive then,

but only her lineage lives on today.

So, I guess that means we're all basically related, right?

- Yeah, we're gonna get there, Joe.

One day, one day.

- Right.

- So, by analyzing mutations in your mitochondrial DNA,

African Ancestry can pinpoint the exact place

and ethnic group of your maternal line.

- Great.

So have you taken that test?

- No, I can't, and I'll show you why.

So my ancestry starts here, just like everyone else's,

East Africa.

Then we're itching to migrate.

- Bye, Mom!

We gotta see the world.

- [Azie] First, my people went north to Egypt.

- [Evelyn] Someone should build some pyramids here, right?

- They were not into building pyramids, I guess.

So they went to Turkey.

- [Evelyn] Oh, I love these Caucasus Mountains, fam.

We'll climb to the tippy top.

Hey, guys.

You see them weird looking people over there

with the hairy faces?

- [Azie] OMG.


We gotta check them out.

So they crossed the mountains into...

- [Evelyn] Europe?

- Yep.

My maternal ancestors were the first homo sapiens

to go to Europe, after the Ice Age,

where they met...


- Fight!

- We beat up the Neanderthals,

but not before having their babies

'cause Southern Europe is so romantical.

- Oh my God.

- Which explains my Neanderthal DNA.


But wait, I'm not finished.

Apparently, we were too hot.

Let's go up there and be British.

Anybody got a boat?

- Okay, so your maternal ancestors are British?

- No.

So they migrated north again and...

- There isn't much north left.

- Ended up in Finland, where they followed the reindeer,

and knit sweaters, and sang songs around the fire and ice.

- [Evelyn] You're Finnish?

- [Azie] Yep!

All done.

- Okay, so your mitochondrial DNA isn't very African,

and that's why you can't take the African DNA test.

Well, how does it feel?

Did any of this change the way you see yourself?

- It did make me feel better about hating hot weather.

- Right.

- And I learned a lot of interesting things,

like how expansive the Bantu migration through Africa was.

Oh, and how Aka Pygmy men spend the most time caring

for their infants than any other men in the whole world.

- Okay.

They got Tinder out there?

'Cause they sound like husband material.

- I know, right?

And the Sámi tribe were the indigenous people of Finland.

Their traditional homes look a lot like teepees.

And here's my sister.

See the resemblance?

- Those cheeks!

Genetics don't have much to do with identity.

I know my ethnic ancestry, for the most part.

I'm from Kenya.

My people are Kikuyu.

But culturally, I'm Black-American.

- True.

So, would you ever take a DNA test, Eve?

- Actually, yeah.

Because even though I know my ethnic ancestry,

I don't actually know my ancestors, the people.

After my grandparents, it's kind of a blank for me.

- And if you took the test,

you could find your cousins,

like my favorite internet cousin might be my real cousin.

- Yeah, sure.

But I was thinking more like my family tree.

DNA testing can help you with your genealogical research.

So, what about you?

Would you take an ancestry test?

Why or why not?

- An if you have, did you find anything surprising?

Did it change the way you see yourself?

- Let us know in the comments.

- Like, comment, subscribe, follow us on social media,

and we'll see you in the next one.

- Bye!

- Bye!

(smooth music)

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